Updated on 04/08/2020
Diversity in the workplace is being discussed more and more often, which is fantastic. It’s an interesting subject that may feel like it’s sometimes difficult to discuss, especially during a climate where this topic is at the forefront of public conversation.
Whether diversity discussions are sparked by the global spotlight on racism in America, or by Brexit and our changing relationship with the EU, there’s no doubt that it’s a subject that’s deserving of some attention. It has local consequences, too, as diversity is relevant to all aspects of our personal lives- including our communities, friendship groups and in business.
At its heart, diversity is something that should be celebrated. After all, a workplace that can successfully accommodate people of different cultures and backgrounds could well be a good place to work. Better yet, a workplace that can harness its employees’ unique experiences and perspectives to create a productive and positive atmosphere could be setting itself up for success.
Sometimes diversity can cause difficulties though, and putting the right practices in place to promote equality requires deliberate effort. So, in this article, we’ll take a look at:
Diversity is about people. It’s about understanding and recognising everyone’s unique talents, experiences and backgrounds. For businesses, that means appreciating how a team of staff members are different in some fundamental ways; whether they’re, for example, from a different geographical location, of different genders, or in different age groups.
Each of us has our own set of strengths and weaknesses, and genetics, environments and backgrounds play a part in shaping who we are. Diversity is about appreciating these differences and coming together to build an inclusive environment.
While diversity can take many forms, some typical examples of diversity that you’re likely to encounter in the workplace include:
Each of these types of diversity can have varying effects on a workplace. In an ideal world, every single business owner would be able to confidently say that they judge prospective employees based entirely on their merits- removing any stereotypes or biases from their hiring processes.
The government’s recent figures indicate that around 75% of working-age people (aged 16-64) are employed in England, Wales and Scotland, with around 77% of white people being employed versus only 65% of people from all other ethnic groups combined.
Could improving awareness around the value of diversity and challenging any societal biases lead to fairer recruitment processes and equal opportunities for all types of people? Perhaps. Let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits of diversity.
Aside from people being able to share a wide range of exciting stories when you’re enjoying some well-deserved down time at a staff event, some of the benefits of diversity in the workplace include:
If employees feel that you, as an employer, provide equal opportunities both to your existing workforce and to prospective new employees, that’s a good sign.
In this case, your employees may feel a sense of pride toward your business’ stance on diversity, and thus may be more likely to recommend you to friends. This could potentially result in new opportunities for your business, or in you acquiring some new, similarly talented, staff members.
This isn’t to say that a more diverse range of employees means your culture will automatically become great overnight. Rather, diversity could bring about a better culture for your business by founding your business’ culture on the right values. With the right values and different perspectives at the heart of your company, there’s a good chance that you will foster a positive environment and set yourself up for long-term success.
Inclusion and equality are incredibly powerful values on which to build a team, and values that everyone can get behind. An environment built on these values may become relaxed, friendly and positive- all of which may compliment a team of hard workers.
So, as a business owner, you may do well to showcase your business’ positive stance on diversity to prospective employees, your internal team, and stakeholders.
Some types of diversity can present challenges; such as overcoming language barriers or generational differences. If a team can successfully integrate despite these challenges, there’s a good chance that they’ll become a group of strong communicators who prove that they can work well with people from all walks of life.
This may improve certain aspects of a business’ performance, such as making your team better at communicating with clients or effectively representing your ideas and strategies in the way you imagined them.
Anyone can have good ideas irrespective of their background, but everyone who feels included, valued and made welcome by a business’ environment is more likely to express those ideas than withhold them through fear of speaking out.
What’s more, perhaps people with differing experiences and backgrounds may bounce ideas, clash, and innovate in exciting and interesting ways that lead to you proactively creating new strategies and connecting with your market in a fresh way.
Our thoughts and ideas on diversity aren’t just speculation. We have found through our own research that consumers pay attention to the messaging and stances displayed by companies; with around half of consumers choosing not to purchase from companies whose products contain unsustainable palm oil or excessive single-use plastics, could poor diversity stances and practices result in a business losing out on custom too?
Conversely, if you own or work for the kind of company that showcases its progressive and inclusive stances on diversity issues, there’s a good chance that prospective employees will notice your efforts and look more favourably on you because of them.
The impact of this on the hiring process could be disputed (some may argue that wage and job description are too important factors for diversity policies to even be considered), but there’s a chance that a prospective employee who’s deciding between employers could swing toward you if they feel that you’re out to make the world a better place, and it feels like a better cultural fit.
Similar to our previous point, companies care about appearances and shared values. By demonstrating good CSR (corporate social responsibility) policies and progressive stances on societal issues such as diversity, you may open up new opportunities to work with reputable clients and partner with international brands.
Now that we have established why diversity is important in the workplace, let’s take a look at some actionable steps you could take to make equal opportunity and inclusivity a reality for your business.
A final note would be to proudly showcase your efforts and policies. You may well reap the reward of diversity efforts through having a positive and friendly team, but it’s also worth making sure that your customer base knows that you care about diversity, too. It’s easier to support a brand that you believe is a force for good in the world.